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Strong brand identity, references to British sub-cultures and bespoke nonconformity. From the tribute to British style and quality, meet young London-based designer Nicholas Daley, whose aesthetic reflects his own multiracial heritage. A slow approach and age-old methods of production mixed with contemporary designs result in a fresh British menswear label that definitely deserves attention.
First of all, tell us please about your background.
I grew up in Leicestershire and later moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins, on the BA Menswear course. This is where I really started to experiment and improve my skills as a designer. During my time at CSM I also did internships with several different menswear designers such as Aitor Throup and Paul Smith; it was useful to work for a variety of brands, as I learnt a greater variety of processes and techniques. I also worked at Dover Street Market for two years to understand what customers are looking for, and thinking about where I would want my brand to sit. It is impossible to learn everything in fashion, so the experience of working in retail has definitely helped in my understanding of this industry. All these experiences gave me a better idea on how I would take my product and brand to the fashion market.
And how was your brand born?
I have always worked hard and thought that maybe one day I could launch my own brand. It was never my initial plan to start so quickly after university, but right after graduating from Central Saint Martins I received an email from Beams in Japan saying they were interested in buying my collection, and I accepted their request. So the birth of the brand was quite a natural and organic process, I have never forced my ideas upon anyone.
Do you think of a specific audience you are creating for? Who are those people wearing your clothing?
The honest truth is that I made my graduate collection so that I could wear it afterwards. The tutors encouraged us to be more crazy and experimental, but I was always thinking: “I still want to wear this jacket after I graduate.” I believe I make clothes for people with a similar mind frame. I don’t just want to target one specific demographic – I want to appeal to open and like-minded people, who get my references and my story, and who appreciate British fabrics and craftsmanship. The majority of my customers are based in Japan and I have some great stockists there too. It is a strange feeling, as I have yet to actually visit Japan! But I am very appreciative of support and positive feedback I have had form this market.
Do you have a feedback that somehow pushes you forward?
I have had some great features and interest from a variety of international and UK-based press, so I feel lucky that other creative individuals consider that my work has a strong point of view to be shared to the masses. Most recently, I was invited to present my AW16 collection during the Copenhagen Fashion week – it was a great way to show my designs on an international platform and try new markets around the world.
You once said that your key inspiration is Yohji Yamamoto. What exactly do you appreciate about his philosophy?
From the beginning, I felt intrigued by his oversized silhouettes and the natural form of his clothing. He also seems to have his own natural rhythm, and whenever I have listened to him talking about fashion and his work, I’ve always felt inspired. He has always had this deconstructed, punk DIY element to his work right through to his casting of models – using a broad range of musicians, artists, and dancers of different ages. I have been to one of his shows in Paris and have seen all sorts of people wearing Yamamoto’s clothes. What I find attractive is that you can buy a jacket from Yohji at my age and still wear it long time afterwards; there is this timelessness within his work. This is what I am aiming at with my designs as well.
How and why do you think street style became so important nowadays?
From my point of view, it is the age of social media that made it possible for anyone to make a photo and upload it on Instagram. There is a lot more freedom as technology evolves, and street style is just a part of fashion documentation. For me, looking at normal people who wear their clothes in everyday routine interests me more than fashion blogs, because it’s more honest.
Do you believe fashion is changing people’s attitude toward social issues such as feminism, self image, or human rights?
Fashion has always been a communicator and an important indicator for social and cultural changes throughout history. I believe every designer has a responsibility to continue to explore and challenge social issues that are present within our society. For example, within my own work of exploring the ideas of multiculturalism, I can make the industry think about engaging in a diversity of cultures rather then being disengaged.
How did you come to this topic of multiculturalism?
It’s intrinsic: I come from a mixed ethnic background, my mum is from Scotland and my dad is from Jamaica, so my whole life I have experienced a very diverse upbringing. I guess multiculturalism was a part of my DNA even before fashion school. Also, living in such a cosmopolitan city as London has also influenced my work, from my first collection to my most recent. I think diversity is a great thing, and I wish to celebrate this within my own work.
Tell us please about your SS16 collection, First beat.
SS16 is based on my travels around London, and specifically the West African communities around the area where I live. I was naturally inspired by seeing people coming out of the local African Sunday church having all their traditional attire. You naturally absorb those things without even noticing, and I guess that is the beauty of living in a multicultural society. I see a person wearing an interesting kaftan and translate it through to contemporary menswear. Also, photographers like Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita were inspiration sources for me, since they were both pioneers in documenting the lives of West African people in the 60s and 70s.
What are your plans for the future?
My ambition is to keep growing my brand at a rate I can manage, without comprising the quality of my garments. But of course, I want to try new things and collaborate with more people so I can continue to learn my craft.
SS16 collection is currently stocked at Hostem and BEAMS Japan.